Gorilla Legislative Network Newsletter
"...Online Newsletter from the Pittsburg State University Legislative Network"
Tuesday, January 14 2014
Issue Archive:

Supreme Court Ruling Will Set Session's Course


Supreme Court Ruling Will Set Session's Course

At a glance …

  • Legislature awaits K-12 funding ruling by Kansas Supreme Court
  • If Supreme Court upholds lower court ruling, lawmakers will be asked to increase K-12 funding by approximately $450 million
  • Ruling will play major factor in direction of 2014 session

It certainly doesn’t feel like an entire year has gone by, but state lawmakers have returned to Topeka and the 2014 Legislative session is now officially underway. It seems as if every session turns on a specific topic put forward by lawmakers (in 2012 it was redistricting & incomes tax rates, in 2013 sales tax rates), but unlike year’s past, the 2014 session will be framed by the decision of an outside body.

The Kansas Supreme Court will soon release its decision as to the question of whether the state must comply with a lower-court ruling requiring the GOP-led legislature and Republican Sam Brownback to increase annual funding for K-12 education by an estimated $450 million, or 14% above last year’s level. (Wall Street Journal)

In light of recent dramatic tax cuts by the legislature, an affirmative ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court would place lawmakers in the delicate position of either creating new funding sources or cutting current funding streams to state agencies. As the Topeka Capital Journal notes, if the decision is upheld it “would bust a state budget that, despite [last session’s] sales tax decision, is already projected to run a deficit by 2018.”

Neither option is attractive. As you might imagine, lawmakers are anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s final decision which could come as early as this week.


State Investment in Higher Education at Risk


State Investment in Higher Education at Risk

At a glance …

  • The 2013 State Legislature cut Pittsburg State’s budget by more than $1.5 million over two years
  • Pittsburg State’s base funding has been cut by  more than $5 million since 2008
  • State investment in Pittsburg State is at approximately the same level as it was in 2004
  • Pittsburg State enrollment has grown by more than 11 percent since 2004
  • While the 2013 Kansas Legislature cut higher education funding, 37 other states increased higher education funding

Just as the future of K-12 funding is unknown, so too is the level of investment the state will make in public higher-education. Last year, lawmakers cut higher-education by more than $37 million over a two year period as a result of their push to lower income tax cuts. This cut includes a flat 1.5 percent decrease in funding and a so-called “salary cap” provision that added an additional 1.1 percent loss in state funding. For Pittsburg State this meant a cut of more than $900,000 in Fiscal Year 14 or 2.6 percent with an additional $650,000 set to be cut in Fiscal Year 15.

Pittsburg State was able to accommodate the state’s reduced investment by adjusting its operating budget for FY14, but these types of cuts place Pitt State’s ability to compete at risk. In fact, Pittsburg State’s base funding has been cut by more than $5 million since 2008 and now sits at approximately the same level it did in 2004. Much has changed over the past 10 years, including Pitt State’s enrollment, which has grown by more than 11 percent in the past decade.

Pittsburg State did receive a targeted enhancement for a new polymer science program with an additional allocation of $500,000 per year but the cut to base funding was extremely disappointing giving Kansas’ strong tradition of offering one of the strongest statewide systems of higher education in the nation.

Our great state’s reputation of being a source of outstanding academics is now at risk. In fact, Kansas was one of only five states in the nation to cut its investment in higher education last year. A well-educated, well-prepared workforce is essential for business to grow and compete in the global marketplace.

The governor has indicated he intends to push for at least a partial restoration of funding for higher-ed this year, but the future for this funding is anything but certain. Pittsburg State will continue to advocate on behalf of its students, faculty and staff by urging lawmakers to remove the “salary cap” provision passed during last year’s session and restore the state’s investment in higher education.


Pittsburg State makes case for Kansas' first Career Technical Education Development Program


Pittsburg State makes case for Kansas' first Career Technical Education Development Program

At a glance …

  • Career & Technical Education Teacher Development & Innovation Center at Pittsburg State
  • CTE-TDI will train next generation of technical education teachers
  • CTE-TDI will allow state to take full advantage of its $20 million investment in Career & Technical Education Act
  • Pitt State’s CTE-TDI will improve state’s workforce & help bolster Kansas’ economy

 

Governor Brownback and the 2013 legislature passed a $20 million state program known as the Career and Technology Act to help students pay for technical training and become “career ready” graduates. This program is already encouraging students to return to the classroom and laboratory to learn new skills that will allow them to earn higher wages and rebuild the state’s economy.

The question is … who will teach them?

This type of instructor must possess the teaching skills of an experienced faculty member and the technical skills of an industry professional.

It can be difficult and expensive to try to recruit these instructors to our state and the competition for these individuals is fierce.

Thankfully, Pittsburg State University is in the unique position of having qualified faculty, state-of-the-art equipment, and a world-class facility to train the next generation of career and technical education instructors.

Pittsburg State is proposing the creation of a Career & Technical Education Teacher Development & Innovation Center (CTE-TDI) within the Kansas Technology Center. This will be a one-stop training facility for instructors throughout the state and help ensure that students are able to take full advantage of last year’s Career and Technology Act.   

We see this as a natural extension of last year’s technical education effort by lawmakers and are making this one of our top priorities for this session. We invite you to learn more this initiative here (link to pdf) and speak to your local lawmaker about the positive difference Pittsburg State in the state’s level of technical education.


Governor Brownback's State of the State Address


Governor Brownback's State of the State Address

At a glance …

  • State of the State Address set for Wednesday, January 15 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Aired live on Pittsburg State’s public radio station, 89.9FM KRPS
  • Live reaction on Twitter at @capitolgorilla – hashtag #SOTS14

 

The legislative session may have started on Monday, but it really begins to get traction on Wednesday with Governor Brownback’s State of the State Address. It will be during this speech that we will learn of the governor’s legislative priorities this session and where he believes the state is headed.

Keep in mind that this is also an election year for the governor who will face House Minority Leader Paul Davis in November. Financial disclosures submitted to the Governmental Ethics Commission in December show the governor with a lead in fundraising amounts as of Dec. 31.

The State of the State Address will take place this evening at 6:30 p.m. and can be heard in the Pittsburg area on Pittsburg State University’s public radio station, 89.9 FM, KRPS.

I encourage you to follow along on Twitter as I live-tweet reaction and headlines from the governor’s address on the @capitolgorilla twitter account. I’ll use the hashtag #SOTS14.


New Addition to Gorilla Advocacy Team in Topeka


New Addition to Gorilla Advocacy Team in Topeka

At a glance …

  • Riley Scott hired as new member of Gorilla government relations team
  • Scott brings years of political experience and expertise
  • Scott previously held positions in the offices of both Sen. Jerry Moran & Sen. Sam Brownback

 

The importance of an effective and active network of Gorillas has never been more important than it is now. Just as Pittsburg State is an important contributor to the economic success of our state, so too is the state of Kansas an important partner in the continued success of Pittsburg State and its students.

We understand the importance of this relationship and are bolstering our efforts in Topeka on behalf of Gorillas everywhere.

We're happy to announce that we are adding a new member to our advocacy team in Topeka in the form of Riley Scott. Mr. Scott has a great deal of political experience and is well known in Topeka. He served as deputy chief of staff for Sam Brownback when he was in Congress and was the deputy chief of staff and state director for U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

Riley earned his M.A. in Government and Political Communication from The Johns Hopkins University and a B.S. in Agriculture from Kansas State University.

He will be advocating on our behalf beginning with the 2014 session and will help reinforce the Gorilla message across the capital as well as help develop additional strategies for effective governmental relations.   We're excited to welcome Riley to the team and to have him working alongside Shawn in the halls of the statehouse as well as the steps of D.C.